The Rabbiters, Russell Drysdale 1947

Section
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
Chapter
1.7 Paintings
Page
1.7.5

 If Nature is to Philip Davey a dream, an enchanting dream, then to Russell Drysdale it is a nightmare. His paintings of Depression-era Australia are surreal, grotesque and confronting. ‘The bush’ is stripped bare by drought, pests (in this case rabbits) and overgrazing and the tones are bare-bones browns and ochres. It is beyond fear to a sort of bleak, fatalistic melancholy.

Nature is immensely powerful, as per the great, hulking shapes of rocks and trees and stumps that populate his paintings, but it is as far from the Romantic tradition as it is possible to be. There is nothing uplifting here, it is crushing, and humans can – at best – eke out a marginal existence, prying into its nooks and crannies.

The overpowering loneliness and nihilism of Drysdale’s work makes him hard to include because I find it so confronting, but nonetheless I think I must, as I see a truth (one of many) in its perception of Nature, just as there is a truth in Rousseau’s fear and Von Guerard’s wonder.

“Drysdale’s best paintings are a metaphor of a journey; they do not leave us with Nature, as the Australian Impressionists do. They carry on to another place, which is not a place at all, which is beyond time, where everything irrelevant has been eliminated. That is why the paintings are so profoundly sad. The figures in them are not afraid of loneliness and emptiness…they are on the brink of eternity”1.

Is it possible to transcend Nature? Is it desirable to do so? If this is eternity, then perhaps I’ll stay in Nature.

 

 

1 Dutton, G. 1989. Russell Drysdale 1912-1981. Mallard Press, Moorebank, NSW.

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1.7.2 View in the Grampians from the top of the Serra Range

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1.7.4 Colonial Evening – Landscape after George Raper

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1.7.5 The Rabbiters

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1.7.6 Explorer Attacked by Parrots

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1.7.7 Red Landscape

Briefly, Williams’ vast, featureless landscapes and earth tones have us back in the fatalistic ‘eternity’ of Drysdale. There is something dwarfing, eternal and elegiac about them as the horizon recedes forever and the semi-aerial view reveals the ...

1.7.8 Princess Parrot/Sceptre Banksia

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1.7.9 Water Dreaming for Two Children

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Explore Other Sections

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship

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2. Reduce Consumption
2. Reduce Consumption

2. Reduce Consumption

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4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment
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5. Reduce Population
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10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
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